Plessy, a man who was one-eighth black, but classified as black by Louisiana law, refused to leave in order to trigger a case about the legality of segregation.
In 1896, after years of trials appeals, the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was fair, and was not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment requiring equal protection to all.
"Laws permitting, and even requiring (the separation of blacks and whites) in places where they are liable to be brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other..........
The argument also assumes that social prejudice may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the Negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. If the two races are to meet on terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each others merits and a voluntary consent of individuals........." (from the United States Supreme Court case of Plessy vs. But how possible is it for two peoples to have a mutual appreciation of each other's merits if everywhere they look around themselves they are told that they cannot ride on the same train car, drink from the same fountain, sit on the same bench, or learn at the same school?
The Ku Klux Klan was inciting race riots, and, starting in 1882 and up until 1968, a total of over 4,700 blacks were lynched .
Segregation also took off in many Southern states, as whites searched for this lost feeling of superiority.During Reconstruction, the federal government expanded the vote to blacks in the South, and provided some equal protection to black citizens.As Reconstruction failed, however, white supremacists began to use violence and intimidation to oppress blacks.Northerners were sent into southern states to set up Reconstruction governments, which were completely in place by 1870.The Reconstruction Era saw many positive changes in the lives of African Americans: for example, the number of black children in school rose from 25,000 in 1860 to 149,581 in 1870 and the number of black voters rose from 0 in 1860 to 700,000 in 1867 (all men of course) .At the highest level, the case was decided on May 18th, 1896, in favor of Judge Ferguson and the state of Louisiana.By this time, the lasting damage had already been done.It passed a bill in 1890 which said that "separate but equal" areas for black and white passengers on trains was lawful and that violators could be fined or jailed. Plessy, a young shoemaker who was one-eighth black and seven-eighths white, boarded a Louisiana state rail car on June 7, 1892.Backed by two groups fighting racism, Comite des Citoyens and the black newspaper, The Crusader, he sat down in the "White Only" rail car, and refused to move when asked to do so. Homer Plessy and the groups supporting him took their case to the local circuit court, judged by John Howard Ferguson, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and finally to the United States Supreme Court.In 1890, the Court took another step in ruling that Mississippi's segregation on common carriers was lawful.The Louisiana legislature also pushed for segregation.